25 November 2013

Construction Start on US Vogtle Unit 4

25 November 2013

On 21 November 2013, pouring of the concrete basemat for the Vogtle reactor nuclear unit 4 had been completed. Construction on unit 3 at Vogtle began in March 2013. Both reactors are AP1000 Westinghouse design located in Georgia in the south-eastern United States.

The two AP1000’s at Vogtle are eligible for U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantees but final terms have yet to be agreed between all parties. The DOE in February 2010 granted Southern Company, Oglethorpe and Municipal Energy Authority of Georgia conditional approval for a total of up to $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for the Vogtle project.

On 21 November 2013, the board of Directors of Oglethorpe Power, which has a 30% stake in the Vogtle project, agreed with the terms offered by the DOE. The construction of the AP1000’s has already experienced significant delays, including quality control problems with the base concrete, and multiple license amendment requests to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). As result of the major cost overruns for the Vogtle project, credit ratings for all four utility owners of Vogtle have been downgraded. Georgia Power, part of Southern Company, which has a 45.5% stake in the project, has yet to approve the DOE terms. In September, parties missed the latest deadline for agreeing the terms of the loans. The DOE has granted a fourth deadline until 31 December 2013.

The two states in the U.S. where four AP-1000 reactors are under construction, Georgia and South Carolina, are both regulated markets, where the cost of construction is already being charged to ratepayers. As reported in WNISR in the case of Vogtle, ratepayers in Georgia have been paying for the plant since 2010 following a decision of the Public Service Commission to approve, in the face of public opposition, Construction Work In Progress legislation or CWIP. Recent evidencehas demonstrated that Georgia Power is building reactors that are not justifiable by the evolution of power consumption and at a cost the ratepayers of Georgia can hardly afford, with the latest estimate of U.S. 16 billion for both reactors at Vogtle making them the most expensive in U.S. history.